If you’re like me, you instinctively reach for the phone, the mouse or something unbreakable when a web hosting issue arises. Depending on the quality of your host and your understanding of server issues, this could be a frequent exercise. I’ve invited one of those mysterious people on the other side of the support ticket, Douglas Hanna, to reveal the most common problems he hears from web hosting customers and give us some tips on what the solutions could be. I remember asking some of these same questions as a newbie web host customer long ago –Emory Rowland
Web hosting support teams have to deal with a wide variety of issues. Many issues are purely technical. Others are a matter of communication between the hosting company and the customer. Some might just be the result of getting upset (who wouldn’t get upset after seeing their site go down?). To truly succeed in the saturated web hosting market, web hosts need to address the issues with a smile on their face and the best technical solutions at hand.
Here are the five most common web hosting issues I have seen from my experience in web hosting and how to address them:
1. How do I login to my account?
One of the first questions a new web hosting customer has after sign-up is “how do I login to my account?” It is a good question that often has two parts:
- Where do I go to login?
- What login information do I use?
The answer to both of questions may be right in front of you. Most web hosts send a well structured and thorough welcome email to new customers with account information, IP addresses, nameservers and a control panel URL to login and access your account. Most support teams should be able to answer the question without any trouble, but to make sure you get the service as quickly as possible, have all of the information you might need to verify your account handy. Include the last four digits of your credit card number, your domain name, name, etc. in the initial support ticket/email and it will help move the process along much faster.
2. Why isn’t my email working?
A lot of shared hosting customers use their accounts for email and that’s about it. Because of this, a lot of questions are about email. Common reasons for email not working are:
- The entire account and/or email account are exceeding their respective disk quotas
- The the password is incorrect
- The account is configured incorrectly
- There is a server level issue.
To fix these issues, check out your account and the configuration of your account in your email client first. See if email can be sent from webmail. If it can, then the problem is likely with the configuration of your desktop client. Try setting it up again, and if it still doesn’t work, ask your host to check into the account further.
3. How do I install –script-?
Many customers will signup with a web host with the specific intent of setting up a particular script (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, phpBB). How to set these scripts up (or what software to use) should be explained in a getting started section of your web site. How to access the getting started section should be prominently featured in the welcome email and when a customer emails or calls to ask how to setup the particular script, the representative that works with that customer can point them to that section of your web site and explain how it can help them. New customers should always be on the look out for programs like Fantastico, which make installing a variety of scripts a one minute process. Always check for Fantastico or a similar program before signing up for a web host if you think being able to easily install common scripts is important to you.
4. How do I get more domains working on my account?
The processes surrounding addon and parked domains can be very confusing to new web hosting customers. Addon and parked domains need to have the same DNS as the primary domain. Parked domains don’t do much, whereas add-on domains are usually fully functional domains within your primary control panel. Sometimes an addon domain will not be added properly on the server level, so if it still does not work after 48 hours, ask your web host to check into it.
5. How do I get my new site working?
This is a common question that mainly results from customers, usually new site owners, who have no idea what they need to do to get their website up and running. Many customers are confused with whether or not they need to transfer their domain to get it working at a particular host or if they just need to change their name servers. Some customers are still sorting out the difference in domain registrar and web host. These types of issues are almost always explained in the web host’s getting started guide and the short version (change your nameservers to get your site working right away and for the least money) should be mentioned prominently in the welcome email.
Some companies have special “getting started specialists” that deal exclusively with new customers, whereas others don’t differentiate between new and existing customers. It is often helpful to let representatives know you are a new customer and what your level of technical expertise is so they can adjust their answers accordingly.
These are just five of the many common issues that web host support teams encounter. Being able to put your hands on documentation that is well written, frequently updated, and most importantly, easy to understand, can make the difference between a hectic website launch and a smooth one. It is important to remember that Google is your friend, and oftentimes, the knowledge bases you find on other companies’ web sites can be just as useful as the one your own hosting company provides.
And of course, customer service representatives will appreciate you taking the time to explain the issue you’re experiencing fully. The more details you can include (in an easily readable format), the more help they can be and the sooner they can help to resolve your issue.